The anticipated financial savings and ongoing questions over naming conventions for biosimilar drugs have been well documented as these biologic copies continue their slow approach to pharmacy shelves.
However, physician sentiment toward these new drugs will likely be the most critical factor in whether patients begin taking them.
Doc platform and community QuantiaMD released the results of a survey of 300 specialists and primary care physicians aimed at gauging physician thoughts and feeling toward the impending launches of biosimilars. The report also examined where there may be opportunities for pharma marketers to educate clinicians on the topic.
The FDA approved the first US biosimilar, Novartis’s Zarxio—a copy of Amgen’s Neupogen—in March. Novartis is expected to start marketing Zarxio in September.
“A surprise to me was how little physicians know,” Rachel Daricek, senior director of client services at QuantiaMD, told MM&M. “There’s a lot of opportunity for education.”
While 78% of the doctors polled said they were familiar with the term “biosimilar,” only 38% could name a biosimilar that’s under consideration for FDA approval that would be relevant to their patient population; only 33% could name a biosimilar at all.
Researchers narrowed down the original 300 physicians polled into a group of 120 “prescribing specialists,” those physicians the company believed would be the most likely to be prescribing biologics currently and subsequently the most likely to prescribe biosimilars going forward. Only 17% of that segment said they are “very likely” that they would prescribe biosimilars and 70% said they either aren’t sure or are “somewhat likely’” to prescribe a biosimilar.
Daricek said this is because physicians don’t know enough about these products. “They haven’t seen any efficacy and safety data or seen any communication from pharma or their organization—they don’t know what to think,” she noted.
Only 12% of prescribing specialists are “very confident” that biosimilars are as safe as the original biologic version of the drug. Physicians were most likely to say they wanted educational information about safety and efficacy to better understand biosimilars. They also wanted information about the best practices for when to prescribe a biologic instead of a biosimilar.
And that knowledge gap may be more present in health systems. 46% of prescribing specialists in “less restrictive organizations,” such as independent physician practices, were aware of a biosimilar that could be prescribed to their patient population, compared to 28% employed by “more restrictive organizations,” such as health systems.